Chael Sonnen was in a bathroom in Los Angeles when he was finally able to find closure for decade’s worth of regret.
Hired to fill in for MMA reporter Ariel Helwani as host of a mini Showtime press tour for Anderson Silva’s upcoming boxing match against Jake Paul, Sonnen aligned himself to see his former arch nemesis for the first time since hard feelings subsided.
“This represents the first time I’ve seen Anderson in any capacity where I do not have one idea in mind, which is to hit him,” Sonnen said recently on his YouTube channel. “But I (didn’t) know if he feels that same way. … When Anderson walks on stage, I’m of course going to greet him in some fashion. Is he going to greet me back? What is this going to be like? It was great.”
Sonnen and Silva shared heartwarming moments of jokes and a few embraces in front of the audiences – far from the vicious, personal press conferences in the lead up to their two UFC title fights in the 2010s.
Known for brash, inventive trash-talk and pro wrestling-esque promos, Sonnen doesn’t usually feel bad or apologize for efforts to hype a fight. However, Sonnen said he holds himself to certain standards – and one particular time he violated his internal code bugged him since 2012.
“I invoked Anderson’s family at one point,” Sonnen said. “I actually even denied doing this one time. I’d forgot it had happened. We were doing so much media and so much press and somewhere in there I say, ‘I’m coming to his house. I’m kicking his back door in. I’m going to pat his old lady on the ass and have her make me a steak medium-rare just the way I like it.’ Fine, fine. I had a million going in the same day. This one happened.
“Somebody even asked me about it on Day 11, ‘Hey, you’re talking about his wife, going a little bit too far.’ (I said,) ‘Man, somebody lied to you. I have never talked about an opponent’s wife, nor would I.’ Well, pretty close right there. … Of all the things that I did and all the agitations I did, that’s the one Anderson remembers.”
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 12: Chael Sonnen receives a hug from Anderson Silva during a Jake Paul v Anderson Silva press conference at NeueHouse Hollywood on September 12, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Eventually, Sonnen figured out he did say it, after all. Soon after, he had the opportunity to apologize to Silva’s sons backstage at a press conference – but elected not to.
“I was very inclined to go over, get down on a knee so we’re eye to eye, shake their hands, and say to them, ‘I don’t think you’re going to understand this right now, but your father and I as opponents we’re also in business together.’ I just wanted to make peace,” Sonnen said. “I didn’t want them to be scared and I looked over to them. I looked over to them and they looked at me and they had a look on their face like, ‘Woah, Dad come back. Come back. The evil monster is right here.’ So I didn’t think it would be appropriate.
“I didn’t think it would be appropriate to go up to the kids when their dad wasn’t there – no matter what I was going to say. I didn’t do it. I didn’t do it, but I always wished that I had, like somewhere within me. Of all the things (like) I didn’t know how to defend a triangle, of all the things that you would think would go through my mind on this fight, this moment was one. I just never had closure with the family.”
Fast forward a decade later. Sonnen dried his hands in the bathroom at NeueHouse Hollywood when he bumped into a cheery-faced young man. Unbeknownst to him, Sonnen was about to find closure.
“We start talking,” Sonnen said. “Very sweet. Very charismatic. His face and eyes lit up and it finally dawns on me, ‘This is Anderson’s son.’ When I saw him, he was 12, 13 years old. It’s been a decade. He’s a man now. This is that same kid. So I asked him that. I said, ‘Are you Anderson’s boy?’ And he said, ‘Yeah.’ I told him a story. I said, ‘I saw you and your brother at the press conference. I wanted to come over and say hello.’ Well, he remembered it, too. He knew exactly I was looking at, when I looked at him, when his dad had just left, when he was just there with his brother. He remembered the entire thing. I know that sounds simple, possibly to even wildly entertain you guys. It was for me. It was a ‘for me’ moment.”
While he didn’t disclose exactly what was said, Sonnen was satisfied he finally got the weight off his chest.
“I did get to shake his hand,” Sonnen said. “I did get to wish him well. I follow his career. I follow his brother’s career. … I got to say hello. We could to bury a hatchet. Is that how they say it? I’m not a huge fan of that, by the way. I like a little conflict. I like a little back-and-forth, but not to extend to his son.
“So I said my piece to him. We were able to walk away. For the first time in my life, for that big moment in my life, I do feel as though, I have closure.”